I'll be honest: Carnal Flower is not my favorite out of the grand dames of tuberose perfumes. The top spot belongs to Ferme tes Yeux and Fracas in extrait de parfum, and I doubt this is ever going to change, since even Dominique Ropion's Carnal Flower, created for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums in 2005, did not change my mind. I'm biased, though, because Fracas simply smells better than on my skin, and that tends to skew one's opinion quite a bit. Still, I do acknowledge the fact that Carnal Flower is one magnificent fragrance.
I returned to this Frederic Malle perfume this week after reviewing a sub-par new tuberose fragrance. I wanted to re-calibrate my nose and remind myself how much I love this luscious flower on its many facets. Wearing Carnal Flower was the perfect way to do it, because it's incredibly nuanced and balanced, without leaning too heavily on any one of the flower's characteristics. It also doesn't try too hard to be pretty: Ropion took both the green freshness and the skin-like sensuality of his tuberose and stretched them until they almost touch the unpleasant aspects of reality: rot and decay. The freshly cut green stems start dying as soon as they're exposed to air; add to that a hint of overripe fruit (hello, melon!), and you get the underside of carnality.
In between, though, Carnal Flower also seduces with the sunshine of other white flowers: jasmine and orange blossom, and tempts with soft white musk. It's not too sweet and is also free of gardenia, making this Frederic Malle perfume one of those rare creatures: a tuberose fragrance that is not too femme (Cedre by Uncle Serge, Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3 L'Animale, and JAR's Ferme tes Yeux. are the only others I can think about). A man who loves tuberose should be able to wear Carnal Flower without feeling too self-conscious, something is probably a lot harder to do with Her Grace, Fracas.
Notes: tuberose, bergamot, melon, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, jasmine, white musk, coconut, and orange blossom absolute.
Frederic Malle- Carnal Flower ($155, 30ml in 3x10ml travel sprays) is available from Frederic Malle boutiques, Barneys, and Aedes, as well as online.
Art: Tuberose by Yulia of yuliart.blogspot.com